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Ill-health forces early retirement of Ethiopian Airlines chief executive

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Thelma Etim

TewdrosTHE CHIEF executive of Africa’s most successful airline has been forced to step down because of ill-health, writes Thelma Etim.

Tewolde GebreMariam, who has been undergoing medical treatment in the United States over the last six months, made his retirement request to the Ethiopian Airlines Group’s management board, which was accepted during a meeting on 23 March, 2022, says a statement.

“As he needs to focus on his personal health issues, he is unable to continue leading the airline as group CEO, a duty which demands closer presence and full attention round the clock,” the statement confirms.

The board will shortly announce his successor, according to the statement.

After taking the reins in January 2011 from Girma Wake – who had served as the carrier’s chief executive for seven years – GebreMariam wasted no time in improving the company’s profitability, dramatically expanding its fleet from 33 to 130 aircraft and then systematically enhancing the quality of its operations.

During his tenure the airline’s annual turnover rose from US$ one billion to more than $4.5billion.

The African airline group has also constructed more than $700million worth of vital new infrastructure, including an aviation academy and full flight simulators, a cargo terminal and maintenance repairs and overhaul (MRO) hangars and, in partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Aviation Group, the construction of its own dedicated conversion centre specifically targeting the B767-300 ER type at its MRO facility located at Addis Ababa Airport. The partnership with IAI is considered to be an historic development for African aviation in general.

Earlier this month, the biggest and leading air transport group on the African continent announced it had ordered five brand new B777-8 freighters to significantly boost its cargo capacity and also allow it to respond to strong global demand from its Addis Ababa hub, as well as capitalising on the soaring e-commerce shipments sector.

GebreMariam revealed at the time: “We have also started the construction of the largest e-commerce hub terminal in Africa and the new B777-8 freighters will be instrumental in this long journey of growth agenda.”

In January, this year, Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services adopted an online e-bookings platform, allowing its customers to check flight schedules and book space for their shipments in real-time utilising the platform on the African airline’s website.

The move followed the airfreight division’s introduction of a mobile app which allows customers to check flight schedules, track airfreight shipments and activate requests for charter flights.

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